On Thursday Richard, our Rector retired.
Richard was with us for sixteen and a half years and looked after us well. We are a large (in area) benefice consisting of eleven parishes with eleven ancient churches; and I really mean ancient! Richard not only worked very hard to keep all these unique churches going despite many set-backs but also at the same time, managed to get us to think of ourselves as a team; a ‘federation’ of parishes. We help each other out whenever possible. He gave us thought-provoking sermons each week. His constant message was that all people are equal in the sight of God and all should have equal rights and opportunities. He is a fairly shy and self-effacing man but who also would not put up with thoughtless, careless and bad behaviour from anyone. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of films and often quoted from them in his sermons. He is a talented artist and has also written a book about a pilgrimage he made in France. He can also tell the most awful and funny jokes! He supported all our individual fund-raising efforts and provided us and our churches with all sorts of different things that have been of invaluable service. He cleaned, polished, mended, tidied and adorned our church buildings. He designed our website and kept it up-to-date. He edited our benefice magazine and often wrote most of the copy, got people to advertise in it and sent it off to be printed. He ran a coffee morning once a month in his home and made marmalade, cakes and breads for us. He fought on our behalf with anyone who tried to make our lives more difficult. He researched the history of all our churches and was extremely knowledgeable about their architecture. At the centenary of the start of World War I he presented each of our churches with a Remembrance folder containing information on all the men (and women) from each parish who are mentioned on the war memorials.
This is only a fraction of all he has done for us. Like children, we accepted it all and often took him for granted. We now have to fend for ourselves for goodness knows how long.
Richard’s last service was the mid-week said Eucharist at 9.00 am on Thursday at Ilketshall St Margaret’s church. Usually, there are less than ten people who attend this service. This Thursday the church was nearly full with representatives from most of the churches in the benefice. Richard asked us where we’d all been for the past 16 years! A good question! After the service we presented him with a gift and sang happy birthday to him. We had sherry to drink and Pam had made a delicious fruit cake. We chatted and laughed and then it was over.